Various conditions, such as musculoskeletal conditions, can cause a person to have knee pain from driving. People can take measures to treat some causes easily, but others may need professional medical care.

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Knee pain is a common condition for adults. People can develop chronic or sudden knee pain through injury or wear and tear.

This article discusses the possible causes of knee pain from driving, symptoms, and treatments. We also look at ways to prevent knee pain when driving and when to consult a doctor.

People who drive for long periods of time are at risk of developing musculoskeletal conditions. These conditions often cause pain and movement issues.

A person’s musculoskeletal system includes their:

  • bones
  • muscles
  • tendons and ligaments, which are the connections between bones and muscles
  • knee tissues

Musculoskeletal conditions commonly cause lower back pain but can also cause knee pain. A 2020 review of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain found 1 in 5 professional drivers experienced knee MSK pain.

Where symptoms occur

MSK conditions that can occur from driving can affect the following:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • feet
  • thighs

Why it occurs

Driving for long periods exposes people to risk factors for developing knee MSK pain. These factors include:

  • prolonged sitting positions
  • whole body vibration
  • abnormal and prolonged postures
  • repetitive movements
  • prolonged inactivity


People can reduce their risk of developing knee MSK pain by:

  • getting more physical activity
  • having and taking more rest days from work
  • getting eight or more hours of quality sleep

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, a degenerative joint condition. OA tends to be more common in older people, although people can develop OA at any age. OA typically develops gradually over time.

OA affects each person in different ways. Some people with OA may not experience any effect on their daily activities. OA pain may affect other people’s everyday tasks, such as driving.

A 2014 study concluded that OA pain affects drivers. The researchers found that people with OA can take longer to apply car brakes when driving. However, the researchers also noted that people’s braking time was within generally safe limits.

Where symptoms occur

People with OA can have joint pain in the following areas:

  • hands
  • hips
  • neck
  • lower back
  • knees

People with knee OA may hear a grinding or scraping noise when walking. As their OA develops over time, their knee may buckle occasionally.

Why it occurs

OA causes the cartilage between a person’s knee joint bones to break down slowly. As a person’s cartilage breaks down, it causes pain and other symptoms.

Doctors do not yet know what triggers a person’s OA to start breaking down their cartilage. However, OA eventually affects other parts of a person’s knee joint, including:

  • tendons and ligaments that connect together parts of their knees
  • their knee joint lining called the synovium
  • their knee meniscus, a pad of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber

Doctors believe that the following factors make people likely to develop OA:

  • family history of osteoarthritis
  • having obesity
  • previous knee joint injuries or surgeries
  • repetitive joint movement
  • aging
  • joints that do not form correctly

Read more about OA risk factors.


There is no cure for OA. However, doctors can treat a person’s OA to improve their quality of life using:

  • physical therapy, including muscle-strengthening exercises
  • over-the-counter or prescription pain relief medications
  • joint pain relief creams
  • weight loss therapy
  • partial or total knee joint replacement surgery

It’s important to note that doctors generally only prescribe surgery if other treatment options have not reduced a person’s symptoms.

Patellar tendinopathy (PT) is when a person’s patellar tendon becomes inflamed. Patellar tendons are tissues that connect an individual’s kneecaps to their shin bones.

Doctors classify PT as an overuse injury. People with PT experience gradually increasing tendon pain without a single injury event.

PT can make it difficult for people to carry out daily activities, such as driving. Other PT names include:

  • jumper’s knee
  • driver’s knee
  • gas pedal knee

Other symptoms

People with PT have symptoms including:

  • knee swelling
  • pain when walking, jumping, or running
  • pain when bending their knee
  • tenderness behind their lower kneecap
  • pain and tenderness around their patellar tendons

Why it occurs

A person can develop PT after repeated use of their knee joint. Over time, accumulated stress can cause small tears in a person’s patellar tendon. These tears cause a person to have knee pain and inflammation.

PT is normally a sports injury. However, anecdotally some people report that people who drive extensively, such as truckers and bus drivers, can develop PT.


Doctors usually prescribe physical therapy, injectable medications, or surgery to help a person regain full knee function.

People with knee pain caused by arthritis can take steps to prevent their pain increasing when driving:

  • condition treatment and care, such as taking prescribed medication
  • regular exercise
  • stretching before or during driving
  • wearing compression socks whilst driving

Some OA medications can cause a person to be sleepy or dizzy, impairing their driving ability. People taking OA medication should consult a doctor before driving.

People with other knee conditions, such as PT, may need surgery or other options to prevent knee pain when driving.

It’s important that people seek professional healthcare advice immediately if they:

  • have severe knee pain
  • cannot move their knee
  • start limping when walking
  • have knee swelling after knee injury
  • hear a popping noise or feel their knee give way
  • cannot put weight on their knee

If a person has a patellar tendon tear, they may experience a tearing or popping sensation, followed by pain and other symptoms. These symptoms could also indicate a person has a torn ligament.

People driving for long periods are more likely to develop knee pain. There are simple measures people can take to reduce their knee pain risk.

However, some knee conditions can require professional medical care. It’s important that people who have persistent knee pain consult a doctor.